Dressing for One

Between our CSA and our garden, we’ve been blessed with an overabundance of lettuce this summer. Which means that we’re eating a lot of salads. Side salads. Grilled chicken salads. “Loaded” chef salads. Good thing Andy likes his greens. ūüėÄ

However, when it comes to salad, we are a house divided. There’s the normal my side (you know, the one with salads that are lightly dressed with a fresh vinaigrette or drizzled with a tangy buttermilk ranch), and then there’s the weird Andy’s side. The one with plain salads. Don’t get me wrong, Andy is all about toppings on his lettuce – as long as those toppings are things like peppers, strawberries, cranberries, onions, tomatoes, cheese, chicken, shrimp, broccoli, nuts… anything OTHER than dressing. He says dressing is unnecessary, and that his salads are healthier. Whatever. ūüôā

The plus side of this situation? I get to make/eat whatever dressing I want, and right now, that’s a zesty homemade Italian dressing. It’s made from pantry staples and mixes up easily. It also makes a great chicken marinade – you know, for those grilled chicken salads that we’re eating.

Italian Dressing

Italian Salad Dressing

For the dressing mix:
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For a batch of dressing: 
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil (or salad oil)
2 tablespoons dressing mix

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. To make a batch of dressing, whisk together 2 tablespoons of dressing mix and vinegar. Pour the oil into the vinegar mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly to combine.¬†(I actually prefer to use my immersion blender for this, as I’ve found that it emulsifies the dressing the best.)¬†Store dressing the refrigerator.

From Peace Love & French Fries

Click here for a printable version.

Getting Saucy

There’s a slight chill in the air, the nights are getting longer, and my Saturdays involve college football. (GO BUCKEYES!) Fall has arrived! For Karen some people, fall is ushered in by all things pumpkin. For me, fall means apples. Apple pie, apple crisp and applesauce.

Some might say that I’m somewhat of an applesauce snob. I remember being a kid and telling someone (maybe my aunt?) that I wasn’t going to have the applesauce with dinner because it was from the store, not homemade. (In hindsight, I bet I sounded a little bratty then. Sorry ’bout that.) I don’t think of it as being a snob, just having high standards. This is one of those times where the homemade stuff really is better. It’s not hard to make, and since I freeze mine, rather than can it, it’s a cinch. (Plus, frozen applesauce makes an excellent snack. It’s like a slushy, only better.)¬†

My sauce set-up: pan to catch the sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, a bowl to catch the skins, seeds and cores, and two bowls to place the warm, sweet goodness.

Don’t let that picture scare you; homemade applesauce is easy.

Here’s what you’ll need:¬†
Apples (I use a mix of apples for the best flavor; some of my favorites are Cortlands, Macs and Jonathans.) Sugar
Spices (I use cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.)
A large stock pot for cooking down the apples
A food mill/sauce maker OR a vegetable peeler and a potato masher
Freezer containers

First, rinse off your apples and cut them in quarters. (If you don’t have a strainer like the one pictured above, you ¬†will also need to peel and core the apples. If you’re going to make a lot of sauce, I’d suggest investing in one. It’s a huge time saver!)

Place the apple chunks in the stock pot with about an inch of water. Simmer over medium heat until the apples are soft and mushy.

Just about ready for their time in the strainer…

Pour the cooked apples and juice¬†(yes, with the seeds and all)¬†into the strainer. Place a pan underneath the strainer to catch the applesauce and another bowl underneath the waste spout to catch the seeds, cores and skins. Crank away! If you don’t have a strainer, take out your potato masher and smash the apples until they’re the consistency you want.

Pour the fresh applesauce into a bowl and season to taste with sugar and the spices. I use 1-2 tablespoons of sugar for that giant red bowl shown in the picture, and I add the spices until it tastes good! Fill your freezer containers, label, date, and you’re done! Don’t freeze it all though – the only thing that tastes better than frozen applesauce is fresh, piping hot applesauce!

From my mom

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…

There’s nothing quite like a good pizza. Everyone has their favorite combination of sauce and toppings, which is one of the things that makes pizza great. What I love (pepperoni and banana peppers) Andy you might not. And that’s OK.

So how -do you make sure that you have four happy campers when it comes to pizza in the campfire? Personalized pie-iron pizzas! We spent the weekend camping with some friends, and decided that we would have pizza for dinner every evening. (And this is one of the perks of being a grown-up. You can eat pizza for dinner every night. And then more pizza for breakfast. Or perhaps a pie.) And everyone was happy. (Mostly, anyway. Sorry about forgetting mushrooms, Mark!) 

So here are my tips for pie-iron pizzas:

First, use cast-iron pie irons. I’ve decided that ours have been seasoning for the last few years, and I think the pizzas taste better every time we use them.¬†Second, use salted butter for your pies. I’m a big fan of unsalted for baking, but save it for your buttercream. This is also the time to relive your childhood and break out the WonderBread. As much as I enjoy a slice of honey wheat on a sandwich (or with homemade jam), it just doesn’t work as well in a pie iron.

Finally, bring all of your favorite toppings (and make a list so none get forgotten)! This year, we brought these goodies:

Basil pesto
Marinara sauce
Mini pepperoni
Chopped onion
Pickled banana peppers
Chopped green peppers
Chopped Swiss chard
Fresh basil
Mozzarella cheese
Fresh garlic
Chopped cherry tomatoes

(I realize this isn’t technically a recipe, and that there’s no picture to go with it, but it is what we’ve been eating lately!)¬†

Blueberry Goodness

Remember, back when I froze rhubarb, I said that the only thing easier was freezing blueberries? I wasn’t kidding! This was an easy enough (and fast enough) project where I knocked this out one morning before I left for work. I managed to get nine pounds of blueberries in the freezer for this year. (Yes, I know we bought 20 pounds. I only made a couple pies and cobblers with them. The rest of the blueberries were consumed by the bowlful. They’re like nature’s candy.)

Anyway… if you still have blueberries coming in, be sure to save some for those chilly winter mornings! They’re great in muffins, pancakes or pie. (What? You don’t eat pie for breakfast? Hmm.)

You’ll need:¬†
Blueberries (from the farmer’s market or even the grocery store!)
Ziploc bags
Measuring cup or food scale
Sharpie for marking bags

Step 1: Wash the blueberries and allow them to dry on a clean kitchen towel. (You don’t have to wait for them to dry completely if you don’t want to, but if they’re dry, they freeze as individual berries, rather than one giant berry cube.)

Step 2: Measure your berries into ziploc freezer bags. (I freeze them in one-pound increments, but feel free to use any size you like.)

Step 3: Seal, label, date and store!

Look at that, you’re done!

What We’re Eating: Camping Edition

As soon as the days get longer and the weather warms up, I get the camping bug. Lazy afternoons in a hammock, smores and pie iron pizzas around the fire, walks through the woods, sunsets by the lake… these are a few of my favorite things.

Thankfully, Andy loves camping even more than I do, which means it doesn’t take much convincing to get him to pack up the car and drive to the park. (In fact, he loves it enough to go camping/backpacking when it’s snowing and the temperature hovers near zero. Crazy! But that’s another story, for another day…) And since we’ve had beautiful weather here since March, I have been itching to get outside for the weekend.

As much as I love getting outside and roughing it (Yes, I willingly stay at rustic campground with pit toilets and no showers. I said I like camping, not that I look or smell good doing it!), there’s one thing I’m not willing to compromise on: the food. If we’re going camping, we’re going to eat well. No hot dogs and¬†re-hydrated¬†instant food, thank you very much. Good food doesn’t take that much more effort, and let’s face it: If I’m hiking 14 miles, ¬†I’m going to do it on a full stomach.

For camping menus, I break things down into specific meals, and I try to make ingredients perform double duty. For instance, if we’re having kabobs, we’ll also have pizza pies and use the peppers, onions and pineapple for both. I also do as much prep work at home, so 90% of the chopping and marinating is done, which makes dinner at the campsite so much easier. I’ve also started packing any meat that’s marinating in my Pyrex bowls, which has eliminated a lot of leaky Ziplocs in the cooler!

Our assembly line for pie iron pizzas! I love my tiny little jar of spices – it’s perfect for camping! It has curry, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, garlic salt and paprika.

For this trip, we have two dinners, two lunches and two breakfasts, along with the must-haves snacks and desserts.

Dinner #1: Pork chops, roasted carrots, onion and potatoes (Pork gets cooked over the fire, and the veggies get roasted in a foil packet in the coals. Virtually no clean-up. Great for that first night, because we’re all but¬†guaranteed¬†to be eating in the dark.)
Dinner #2: Pie Iron Pizzas, topped with pepperoni, pineapple, peppers and onions (My all-time favorite camping meal. It’s even better if you can find the mini pepperonis for the pizzas… unfortunately, my store was sold out of them when I went shopping. ūüė¶ Boo.)¬†

Breakfast #1: Muffins, fruit, sausage
Breakfast #2: Cereal, fruit, muffins (We try to keep breakfasts simple on the day we’re packing things up.)¬†

Lunch #1: Sandwiches, raw veggies, fruit (Easy to put together and very portable. After all, you might not even be at the campsite at lunchtime!) 
Lunch #2: Sandwiches, raw veggies, fruit

Snacks/Desserts: Smores (a must-have!), Ranch Chex Mix and Pie Iron Pies (with raspberry filling this time!)

First Fruits

Rhubarb is one of my favorite things about springtime in Wisconsin. I love its sweet-tart taste (and the fact that it’s a wonderful addition to many desserts, breads and other tasty snacks). Plus, it’s one of the first things that I can pick from our garden.

I haven’t always loved rhubarb though. Maybe it’s because it looks like celery, or maybe it’s just a more grown-up taste. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I didn’t eat the rhubarb cake you made when I was a kid. Send me the recipe so I can try it again!) Either way, I’m trying to make up for lost time now. One of the best ways to do that is to freeze the rhubarb to use later on.

I think the only thing easier than freezing rhubarb is freezing blueberries (which I also do, so I can make a bluebarb pie… YUM). It takes very little time and effort. So, go pick some rhubarb, and freeze whatever you can to make¬†pie muffins bread cake whatever your heart desires long after spring has gone.

You’ll need:
Fresh rhubarb stalks, leaves removed
Ziploc (or your favorite off-brand) freezer bags, quart-sized
Measuring cup or food scale
Paring knife
Cutting board

First, wash off any dirt on your rhubarb and trim off the ends.

Then slice the rhubarb into small, uniform chunks. (I’m not so great at the uniform part…)

Measure the chopped rhubarb into the Ziploc bags. (Yes, I realize these aren’t Ziploc bags. I’m not brand-loyal.)¬†

Seal, label,date and freeze! You’re done! Then you can make things like this:

Rhubarb Squares

and this: